Huge class brings surplus of Work-Study employees

Posted by Bradley Morris & Rebecca Stern

Nearly 49 percent of students work on-campus as part of the Federal Work-Study Program, and the majority of those students work in Dining Services. With the admittance of the largest First Year Class in college history, and roughly half of the 2014 class working in Dining Services, some students are concerned with the availability of employment.

"It has altered my work experience a little bit because they are more of them," said Sergio Hernandez '12, who works in Dining Services and Burgess Cafe nine hours each week. "They got their first pick on [work] shifts that I wanted."

William Caney, director of Dining Services, views the large First Year Class as an opportunity to cover every station and task in the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall. In response to the financial crisis in the Fall of 2008, the Skidmore board reduced the college budget, which mean the reduction of service, especially in Dining Services.

In a Skidmore News article from Fall 2009, Canney said additional reduction in dining personnel would create an "operational problem."

Now with the large size of the First Year Class and a nearly full recovery of the college endowment, Canney believes more students means the dining services will be more prepared for jobs this year.

"We find that we're more readily able to fill more voids that we had in past years," he said. "[the first year students] are a true compliment to our full time workforce."

For first year students, the minimum they can work is five hours per week and the maximum is nine hours per week. First years are put at all locations in the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall, Burgess Café, the atrium and the spa. With more employed students, one could expect reduced hours to accommodate the need for employment.

Although students are working fewer hours than in years passed, Canney believes this will change as the semester goes on since students have come in and changed their work schedule due to class schedules. Once students are used to their classes and schedules, students are more likely to be able to work extra hours.

"It appears that the students are working slightly less in hours, but it's too early to tell at this point," Canney said.

Alternatively, some first year students have quit work-study due to its demanding schedule, which will open up additional working hours.

"I quit work study because it was much more time consuming than I anticipated. And since there are so many freshmen working," Angela Tsakas '14 said. " I know that there is someone else who will gladly work my hours."

"We are very reliant on our student workforce," Canney said "The dining hall staff has done a great job at accommodating all of the freshmen working. We are constantly busy when we are there, and we never seem to overlap.

In another area of the Dining Services operations, in early September, 150 union employees were at risk of losing their health benefits due to union negotiations with the college. The Skidmore News was not able to reach Caney for comment on the issue as of Thursday.

As reported in the Saratogian earlier in September, the three-year contract between the union and the college expired on May 31. The previous contract required the college to pay 21 percent of the gross payroll to the 1199SEIU Greater New York Benefit Fund heath care plan. Since that time the 11999SEIU requested a one percent increase in the cost, which the college denies responsibility for in the contract.

"Employees will be responsible for and pay all increases required by [the health plan] 1199, to ensure Greater New York Health Fund participation, and to maintain the current level of benefits provided by Greater New York Health Fund, above 21 percent of gross pay," the former contract said, published online on the college human resources website.

"The college has contributed to the Greater New York Benefit Fund in the amounts as bargained and agreed upon," said Dan Forbush, executive director of communications for the college, in a statement on Sept. 2.

"We have been discussing 1199 health care with union leadership as part of the ongoing negotiations and the college has been working diligently to a positive conclusion for our employees," said the college Human Resources Department on the same date, as reported by the Saratogian.

For a follow-up article on union negotiations with the college, read October 8th's issue of Skidmore News.

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